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San Antonio Spurs (7-32) at Boston Celtics (31-9) Game #41 1/17/24

The Celtics return home to host the San Antonio Spurs for their 2nd and final meeting this season.

Boston Celtics v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Celtics are back at home to take on the San Antonio Spurs after a short handed win in Toronto. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics beat the Spurs 134-101 on New Year’s Eve in San Antonio. The Celtics won the series last season 2-0, winning in Boston by 44 points. The Celtics are 46-56 overall all time against the Spurs and they are 23-28 in games played in Boston.

The Celtics remain first in the East. They are three games ahead of second-place Milwaukee, four and a half games ahead of third-place Philadelphia (who beat Denver on Tuesday), and seven games ahead of fourth-place Cleveland and fifth-place Miami. They are eight games ahead of sixth-place Indiana. They are 19-0 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 8-3 against Western Conference opponents. They have won their last two games.

The San Antonio Spurs are 15th and in last place in the West. They are three games behind 14th-place Portland. They are eight and a half games behind 13th-place Memphis. They are 12 games behind the 10th place Los Angeles Lakers for the final play-in spot. They are 4-16 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They are 2-13 against Eastern Conference teams. They have lost their last two games.

The Celtics have been alternating home and road games for the past few games. They played at Indiana, then Minnesota at home, then at Milwaukee and Houston at home and finally at Toronto for their last game. They are once again at home to face the Spurs. They will play Denver at home on Friday before heading out on a three-game road trip through Houston, Dallas and Miami. Following that, they have a seven-game home stand.

The Spurs are playing in the second game of a five-game road trip. They played at Atlanta on Monday and lost that game 109-99. After this game at Boston, they will play Charlotte, Washington and Philadelphia to complete the five-game road trip. They will then return home for a seven-game home stand.

The Celtics may be short handed against the Spurs. Derrick White is questionable with a sprained ankle. He came up limping in Monday’s game against the Raptors but was able to finish the game. Kristaps Porzingis is questionable due to right knee inflammation. Jrue Holiday is questionable for this game due to a right elbow sprain. He suffered the elbow sprain at the end of December but has continued to play through the issue, missing just one game. I’m just going to post the regular starting five because these players may or may not play and if they don’t, I’m not sure who will start.

For the Spurs, Sidy Cissoko is listed as out due to a left ankle sprain. He has already missed five games with the injury. Zach Collins is also out with a sprained right ankle. He has been out since Dec. 31 and has yet to return to practice. Charles Bassey is out for the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Victor Wembanyama was originally listed as questionable but is no longer on the report at this time.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics Reserves
Dalano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Al Horford
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh
Luke Kornet
Al Horford

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
None

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

PG: Tre Jones

SG: Devin Vassell

SF: Julian Champagnie

PF: Jeremy Sochan

C: Victor Wembanyama

Spurs Reserves
Malaki Branham
Sidy Cissoko
Devonte Graham
Keldon Johnson
Sandro Mamukelashvili
Doug McDermott
Cedi Osman
Blake Wesley

Two Way Players
Dominick Barlow
David Duke, Jr

Injuries/Out
Zach Collins (ankle) out
Charles Bassey (knee) out
Sidy Cissoko (ankle) out

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Key Matchups

Kristaps Porzingis vs Victor Wembanyama
Assuming that Porzingis will play, this should be a fun matchup. Wembanyama is 7’4” while Porzingis is 7’2”. Wembanyama is averaging 19.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists 1.1 steals and 3.2 blocks. He is shooting 45.9% from the field and 29.2% from beyond the arc. In the first game against Boston, Wemby finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. He shot 50% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to be especially aware of Wemby when they are going to the basket as he is a threat to block shots every time. They also need to keep him out of the paint and off the glass.

Derrick White vs Devin Vassell
Vassell is averaging 17.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 36.1% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. He shot 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics have to do a better job of defending him in this game.

Honorable Mention
Sam Hauser vs Keldon Johnson
Johnson comes off the bench for the Spurs and is averaging 17.2 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He is shooting 44.6% from the field and 34.6% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need Hauser and the Celtics reserves to step up to match Johnson’s impact on the game. He didn’t play against the Celtics in the first game in San Antonio.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the most important key to winning games. The Celtics are second with a defensive rating of 110.6 while the Spurs are 24th with a defensive rating of 117.5. The Celtics have to especially defend in the paint since the Spurs average 49.6 points in the paint per game. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and play tough team defense in every game and not let up.

Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and they will struggle if they give up second chance points to the Spurs. The Celtics are averaging 47.4 rebounds per game (first) while the Spurs are averaging 43.2 rebounds per game (21st). Rebounding takes effort and when the Celtics put forth the extra effort on the boards, that tends to spread to other areas of the game as well.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to play hard and be the more aggressive team. They have to go after rebounds, loose balls, and 50/50 balls. They have to be aggressive on defense and in getting to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder and wants to win more. Even the last team in the standings can beat the #1 team if they play harder and are more aggressive.

Play the Right Way - The Celtics need to move the ball to find the best shot. When they play hero ball and don’t keep the ball moving, the Celtics struggle. But, when they keep the ball moving and move without the ball, they are very tough to beat. They need to focus on playing defense and having each others backs. They need to crash the boards and box out. They need to focus on taking and making good shots. If the 3’s aren’t falling, take the ball to the basket. Play with focus and with energy.

X-Factors
Home Game and Don’t Underestimate - The Spurs are playing in their second straight road game and have three more to go. The Spurs will likely be feeling some fatigue from travel and being on the road and from staying in hotels and playing in front of hostile crowds. The Celtics need to take advantage of having the crowd behind them and from playing in the friendly confines of the TD Garden. The Celtics can’t underestimate the Spurs based on their 33-point win in San Antonio and the Spurs record. If a team underestimates an opponent, even the worst team in the league, there’s always a chance it can come back to bite them.

Injuries - The Celtics have three players listed as questionable on the injury report. Their status will be a game time decision. It goes without saying that this game will be a lot tougher without Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis. If one or more of those starters are out, it will be up to the remaining players to pick up their games and to play harder. Hopefully at least one or two of them will be able to play.

Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams need to adjust to the way the game is called. Will they call the game evenly or favor the home team? Will they call it tight or let them play? It seems that the officiating has been particularly poor this season so far. Hopefully we get fair officiating and they let them play and the Celtics focus on playing and not on the officiating.

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